Auditor General: Action lacking on many PAC recommendations

Auditor General Sue Winspear

Auditor General Sue Winspear is highlighting a lack of action by government on several recommendations, including in healthcare and welfare assistance, made by her office and by the Public Accounts Committee.

In the first of four ‘follow-up reports’ on recommendations by the PAC and the Auditor General, Winspear pointed out the Cayman Islands government, which was led by the Progressives between 2013 and April this year, had failed to respond to a third of the 15 PAC reports submitted to government between September 2018 and December 2020.

The government was also more than a year late responding to four of the reports.

Under Parliament’s Standing Orders, the government has a statutory requirement to respond to such reports within three months of them being tabled in Parliament.

“It is disappointing that since my last report in 2018 on Government’s progress with implementing PAC recommendations, the Government has fallen significantly behind,” Winspear said in a press release accompanying the new report.

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She added, “Implementing PAC and my recommendations is not just a tick box exercise but something that can and should deliver real service improvements that will positively impact peoples’ lives.”

PACT ‘tracking overdue reports’

Premier Wayne Panton

In response to the OAG report, Premier Wayne Panton said in a statement to the Compass that his PACT government was “tracking overdue reports and will get them to Parliament as quickly as possible”.

He said the government’s Strategic Policy Statement included items relating to good governance and proper compliance with publication of annual reports, and that, in the first three sittings of Parliament since PACT took office, “we tabled 52 reports, so it is clear that we are committed to providing the public with the information in Government reports”.

He added, “Making these reports public helps us achieve our mission of making Government more transparent and accountable.”

The Acting Deputy Governor Gloria McField-Nixon, as acting head of the Civil Service, also acknowledged the OAG’s concerns, stating, “The Civil Service has battled fires on many fronts during the two-year period in question, which has undoubtedly delayed some administrative responses. As part of our continuing efforts to enhance efficiency and accountability, we are revisiting our processes to ensure that we improve the timeliness for tabling Government Minutes.

“We appreciate the OAG recording that some, albeit insufficient, progress has been made on reducing the backlog of Government Minutes and we are grateful to the OAG and the PAC for working with the Civil Service to streamline these processes.”

The Office of the Auditor General has released the first in a series of four reports on government’s responses to Public Accounts Committee recommendations.

Healthcare and social assistance

Winspear said the government’s progress with implementing recommendations made by the PAC on two reports covering healthcare and social assistance was “very disappointing”.

“The original recommendations made by my office date back to 2015 and 2017. The previous PAC held hearings on these two reports a number of times and issued its own reports with additional recommendations, the last being in April 2019. Very little has changed since then,” she said.

The Office of the Auditor General found in its review of progress on the PAC’s healthcare recommendations that “Cayman still has no overarching strategy or policy for healthcare and a legislative framework that is outdated and deficient”.

“As a result, Cayman’s health care system is not providing best value to its people and practices for inspecting heath care facilities, registering health care practitioners and developing Caymanian doctors are still lacking,” the report noted.

Regarding government’s welfare programmes, Winspear said, “There is still no co-ordinated social assistance strategy and so it is not clear if the most vulnerable in our society are being adequately supported, and it is likely that there continue to be inconsistencies in the eligibility criteria for accessing support and gaps and overlaps in provision. The Poor Persons (Relief) Law dates from 1997 and has still not been modernised to be fit for Cayman in 2021, despite assurances to the PAC in 2018 that this was under review.”

Late or no responses

The report showed that of the 15 PAC reports tabled in Parliament between September 2018 and December 2020, by the time Parliament was dissolved on 22 Feb. 2021 in the run-up to the April election, the government had tabled formal responses to nine of the PAC reports.

Only three of those responses were tabled within the statutory three-month timescale. Six were responded to outside that timeframe – between five and 22 months late, and the government had not responded to five of the reports. Another report, tabled in December 2020, was not due to be responded to by the time Parliament was dissolved in February 2021.

The five reports, to which the government has not responded, are:

  • Report on the Segregated Insurance Fund 2015/16 Accounts (6 Sept. 2018)
  • Report on the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority 2015/16 Accounts (6 Sept. 2018)
  • Report of the Information and Communications Technology Authority 2015/16 Accounts (22 Nov. 2018)
  • Report of the Office of the Auditor General on Follow-Up of past PAC recommendations – October 2018 (10 April 2019)
  • Report of the Office of the Auditor General on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Summary Courts – November 2019 (1 July 2020)

Winspear plans to publish another three follow-up reports this year on government’s progress on PAC and Auditor General recommendations. These three reports, along with the report released today, will cover 237 recommendations made by the OAC and PAC.

How the process works

The Public Accounts Committee considers reports made by the Office of the Auditor General and generally endorses the recommendations made those report. The PAC can also make further recommendations of its own, based on the witness hearings held at the time.

The Cayman Islands government is required to formally respond to the PAC recommendations within three months of the PAC laying an Auditor General report in the House of Parliament. That response comes in the form of a ‘Government Minute’ that is tabled in the House.

This status progress report and the original OAG reports on which this report is based are available at www.auditorgeneral.gov.ky.

Read the full report here.

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